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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Yes, I will be reviewing the

No. 19 book on the New York Times Best Seller list this weekend.

Anybody who wants to chime in with their own reviews in the comment box, feel free.

In the meantime, I'm going to plug another work by the same author, and one you might have overlooked: Ice, Iron and Gold.

II&G is an anthology collecting Steve's short fiction, including some stuff I remember from more obscure Baen anthologies like "Power." It’s not complete–for example, if you’re looking for the Kzinti or Deathworld stuff (which is longer, admittedly), you won’t find it here. As with all anthologies, not everything captures the imagination equally. However, it is a very rewarding read for military sci-fi enthusiasts and especially for long-time fans who can see the development of ideas and themes which will animate his novels.

There are thirteen stories here, and they run the gamut from hard sci-fi to fantasy to mystery. Fans of the Nantucket series will be delighted with Riding Shotgun to Armageddon, a side story set in the climactic campaign against William Walker. Emberverse devotees will want Something for Yew, a mystery set in His Majesty’s post-Change Imperial Britain. A mystery featuring some very familiar denizens of Oregon, as it turns out, he says obscurely.

The largest "single" story is the three-tale Bolo arc. Bolos are more-or-less artificially intelligent mobile fortresses (to call them "tanks" is a little like calling a Harley a Big Wheel) sent with troops abroad. Hopelessly expensive, they are largely self-maintaining. In the arc, the Bolo accompanies American troops in some pointless brushfire war in Central America. Things fall apart back home and the troops and their invincible war machine are faced with daunting choices. And here is where a familiar theme comes in–looking for home and a place to belong. The soldiers are leaderless and a long way from a home that really isn’t theirs any more. So they decide to establish one, in a rather chivalrous fashion, as it turns out.

Similar, if far more grim, is "Roachstompers," focusing on new type of despised Border Patrol unit that tries to stem the tide of refugees (and much worse) on behalf of a decayed United States. (The instability is caused by the complete collapse of the oil market when cold fusion is perfected) When the far more confrontational Cold War turns hot for the Border Rangers, they, too, are left homeless. Again, the theme of finding a place is prominent.

Also notable is the quasi-Drakaesque "Cops and Robbers," involving the attempted apprehension of a time-traveling agent from a completely malign British Empire.

More positive, and I suspect dear to his heart and the heart of Anglophile monarchists everywhere, is "The Charge of Lee’s Brigade," set in a world where the American Revolution was averted by a brilliant compromise engineered by William Pitt. In it, Robert E. Lee leads Royal North American cavalrymen against the Russian Empire in the Crimea. Griping, rather amusingly, about vague orders.

Finally (for this review), is "The Apothesis of Martin Padway," an homage-sequel to L. Sprague DeCamp’s "Lest Darkness Fall," wherein an American archaeologist is sent back in time to Gothic Rome, just in time to thwart the vile Byzantines’ attempt to reconquer Italy. "Apothesis" follows the post-war success and surprising elevation of Mr. Padway. Fun trivia side note–LDF was what convinced Harry Turtledove to study Byzantine history.

Please note that my failure to provide a review for each story doesn’t mean I particularly dislike any of the others, but there’s only so much time in a day. It is quite worth your time. Take, read

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